Ann Nocenti Pours Her Soultaker Into KATANA Solo Series

 

Another female DC superhero is getting the spotlight in an ongoing series in February, as Katana is launched by Catwoman writer Ann Nocenti.

It's not the only high-profile move for Katana, who's moving out of the Birds of Prey title to the new Justice League of America, launching in February from superstar creators Geoff Johns and David Finch.

The Katana title will put a solo focus on the hero as she moves to Japantown in San Francisco. Working with artist Alex Sanchez, Nocenti hopes to mix a modern Japanese feel with the traditional samurai story inherent in Katana's legacy.

Newsarama talked to Nocenti about the title and how she hopes to lighten up the heroine.

Newsarama: Ann, as you've put together your ideas for the new Katana series, how would you describe the character as you're writing her? She's driven by vengeance, isn't she?

Ann Nocenti: She's definitely driven by vengeance, because her husband was killed by his brother. She's so consumed by vengeance, and she's moved to Japantown [in San Francisco], where she knows there's information about the various clans, pre-courts and judges, when you would have trained samurai assassins that would go out and serve justice. And the ninjas were, of course, more spies. Ninjas were used to collect information, like the CIA, while the samurais were more like a SWAT team.

And so she goes there, and in the book, she's going to be facing off against highly experienced clans that all use a different sword that they love. They think a long sword is the best, or a dagger is the best.

But with Katana, this vengeance that consumes her is not necessarily a good thing. The best martial arts teachers teach you non-violence. They teach you, especially in aikido, using someone's power against them.

When somebody wants vengeance, the grimness and the fury of her wanting vengeance — that's when you make mistakes.

So I want her to evolve a little bit as a person before she loses control.

Nrama: As she's evolving, will she have a supporting cast around her in the Katana series?

Nocenti: Yes. She's going to have a supporting cast.

I'm very much about stories that are fast, but character development that moves slow. And we have an established character already who has been portrayed a certain way. So far, she's been portrayed as a grim, serious character that doesn't even smile much, you know? And of course, if my husband was stabbed to death by his brother, I might be pretty grim too.

But what I'm going to do is surround her with people who have a sense of humor, that are going to start to pull something a little lighter out of her.

The best samurais last a long time because they also have a sense of humor. I don't know if you've ever seen Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, which is a samurai series that I love. But it's funny. And that interested me.

 

We've seen a lot of grim vengeance warriors. And while she is one of those characters, I think the characters around her — her supporting cast — will be pulling out a more playful side of her.

So in one way, Katana is a samurai comic, a swordsman comic, with a rich history to explore, along with all the action. So that makes it a special comic. But also, she's so grim and serious that my approach is going to be, can I find a point in her that is more fun? And that will bring another element to the book.

And while we're developing this supporting cast, you'll also see some familiar faces. I'm not allowed to say who yet, but issues #2 and #3, there are going to be some very surprising guest stars.

So I'm going to be bringing into the book some.... a villain that we haven't seen in a long time, and another one that's quite popular. One is going to show up in issue #2, and another in issue #3.

So she not only has to sort of find a lighter place to live in and stop being so grim and establish a life in Japantown and take down these clans that she thinks need to be taken down, but she's also going to be part of the DCU in that there will be these guest stars.

Nrama: I know she's also joining up with the team in Justice League of America. The solicitation for issue #2 indicates you're incorporating that somewhat in your book. Is that going to be part of this comic?

Nocenti: Yeah, the second issue, she has her first meeting with someone from the JLA. So we'll create the spaces for her to be pulled out of my book to do adventures in the JLA. In fact, she ends up meeting Catwoman.

But these are things that are going to go on in the Justice League [of America] book, but I think that once we get used to this rhythm of the solo book plus the team book, I think we'll definitely see some crossovers.

Nrama: Does that mean you have a long-term plan for staying on this comic? I know you're on Catwoman now, but your run on Green Arrow was pretty short. Do you intend to stick around awhile for Katana? What are the long-term plans for this character?

Nocenti: The long-term plans are for her to get control of her Soultaker. She does not have control of that sword. That sword has powers.

Nrama: Right, we saw some of that hinted about in Birds of Prey.

Nocenti: Yeah, the girls would giggle behind her back about, "Oh, Katana's talking to her dead husband in her sword again." You know?

 

And you don't know, is this just an affect of grieving? Or is her husband in the sword? And does the sword have real powers?

So the first arc in Katana is going to be kind of a triple arc. It's new villains that she's going to be fighting that she's going to be fighting from the various clans, the special guest star villains that are going to be very surprising and a lot of fun, and her learning how to control the sword.

Nrama: Can you give us any kind of hint what you'll be revealing about the sword?

Nocenti: As I said, it's got powers, but very, very few people can pick it up and use it.

Nrama: So it's like Excalibur or Thor's hammer, Mjolnir?

Nocenti: Exactly. Exactly. Even really experienced swordsmen can't control the Soultaker. So it's a special sword. And we'll learn more about that.

Nrama: I assume you'll explore why Katana can control the Soultaker? What makes her special and allows her to wield the sword?

Nocenti: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There's a long history planned for that.

Nrama: Have you seen the art from Alex Sanchez?

Nocenti: Yes! He's fabulous. He's bringing exactly what I wanted for this book. It's a Japantown that doesn't really exist. There was a Japantown in San Francisco, but after the internment camps that locked up all the Japanese, Japantown shrunk down to just a couple tourist blocks. So what we're doing is we're imagining a Japantown that has a couple alleyways that seem to go way back in time.

 

So you're going to have some modern Japanese areas, influenced by those huge, modern Japanese sculptures and the hilarious, crazy fruit way of dressing those teenagers do. We're going to have some of that modern stuff mixed with the old rituals and the old looking buildings and architecture.

Alex is doing this fabulous job of making you feel like you're in ancient times and you're in modern times. Since what she's doing is ancient — we don't see people walking around with katanas strapped on their backs anymore — what we wanted to do artistically is embrace, like, a thousand years of time in each page.

What I'm hoping to create is this modern book that also feels like it's in this ancient clan culture, like Japanese samurai movies. And I hope to make it unique and fun while also having a depth to the story and history.

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